County news

Surrey lead call for summer-long T20

David Hopps

July 6, 2012

Comments: 11 | Text size: A | A

Gareth Batty runs out Ollie Wilkin, Surrey v Middlesex, FLt20 South Group, The Oval, July 6, 2012
Spectators at The Oval were treated to a dramatic finish - Richard Gould wants them to be able to attend T20 games throughout the summer © PA Photos
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Richard Gould, the Surrey chief executive, and widely tipped as a future chief executive of the ECB, has called for England's Twenty20 domestic tournament to be scheduled throughout the summer and has predicted it could bring "a dramatic increase" in the number of people who watch county cricket.

Gould's call is contrary to the preferences of England's professional players, who were in favour in a survey commisioned by the Professional Cricketers' Association, of a high-profile IPL-style tournament with concerted efforts made to attract the world's top stars.

Surrey have endured a crazed fixture schedule which would find favour with nobody, in which they have hosted four T20 matches in five days, shortly after staging England's NatWest Series tie against Australia.

He called instead for the ECB to cater better to the public demand to watch cricket by creating sufficient space between matches for supporters to come to more than just "the occasional game".

As the ECB extends its survey on the future of the domestic game, the battle lines have clearly been drawn between those who want to seek a high-profile tournament and those, like Gould, who believe in a traditional county-cricket solution, using primarily Engliush players and playing the tournament over the season. In that way, he contends, it would be using England's professional circuit to offer something distinct from the short and sweet tournaments elsewhere.

The Gould method would necessitate players switching from one format to another incessantly but would make all forms of the game available to spectators throughout the summer. It would also arguably exacerbate problems finding overseas players, a situation that is becoming increasingly critical.

Despite an unsuccessful campaign, Surrey pulled in almost 15,000 spectators for their match against Kent on Thursday - one of the biggest crowds in this year's weather-beaten tournament - and saw a similar turnout on Friday for their defeat to Middlesex.

"Having analysed the supporter data it is clear that the vast majority of the 15,000 supporters that saw us on the Thursday were not the same ones that came today because people do not have enough leisure time to come twice within such a short period," Gould said.

"Going forward we must provide a schedule that suits our customers, allowing sufficient space between matches so that supporters can come to most of the games rather just one or two, following the football and rugby models. Bigger crowds also make for a more compelling televised spectacle.

"For Surrey supporters this also means making sure most FLt20 games take place on Thursdays or Fridays, although the preferred day of the week varies from county to county. If we can achieve all this, allowing people to come and watch more than the occasional game; then we have a great opportunity to dramatically increase the number of cricket supporters in this country."

Gould first unveiled his preference for a more spread-out T20 schedule to ESPNcricinfo. He also suggested that a rejigged FLt20, which next year will have to be fitted in around the Champions Trophy, could create a better balance in the fixture list.

"It could also help those that regularly attend Championship cricket but currently have to endure a large part of the summer without it, having to make way for an exclusive diet of Twenty20. As a spectator sport we are working closely with the ECB to ensure that the needs of members and supporters are always the highest priority."

David Hopps is the UK editor of ESPNcricinfo

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© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.

Posted by Juiceoftheapple on (July 8, 2012, 17:01 GMT)

When Gould was at Taunton he and Brian Rose released the Taunton born Wes Durston into the then cricketing obscurity, about the same time he talked about getting 'world wide' fans from the exposure of CLT20. In an outpouring of hostility normally associated with football he was slaughtered by the Somerset fans. Perhaps he never forgot the lesson. But yes, I would rather see Yeovil born Gareth Andrew and Wes Durston in Somerset colours than Pollard and Morkel, but all 4 would be preferable. Conversely I was at a CB40 match earlier in the year where a group of fans with their kids asked where Trescothick was, even though it was widely reported that he was long term injured. So do big names really decide ticket sales? So what do we want to see; local lads, a good game of cricket, a splattering of international names, whether English or other. Cant be that hard can it. I would personally definitely go to more matches if they were spread out over the full summer and played on a Thurs/Fri.

Posted by Riversider91 on (July 8, 2012, 17:00 GMT)

Here's one idea. How about Marketing ALL competitions to the general public instead of just T20.

15,000? I bet at least 10,000 of those Tickets were given away as Corporate freebies.

Posted by py0alb on (July 8, 2012, 11:58 GMT)

If you started the 1st Thurs/Fri in June, the group stages would be finished by the 1st week in August. Follow by the quarters in mid August, and finals weekend over the August bank holiday.

It couldn't fit in more perfectly.

Posted by stringbok on (July 8, 2012, 9:46 GMT)

A nice idea particularly if it avoids the six week break for 'proper' cricket. But consider - a) the weather. Games will need to be played at night to maximise crowds. It can make for an unpleasant spectator experience - Essex ran its own T20 comp a few seasons ago played in September and it was freezing .b) football. It's bad enough when there is an International tournament. Cricket will struggle to compete against the fag end and the start of the Premiership. c) Overseas stars - don't see this as an issue. Your average T20 fan wouldn't know them from Adam anyway. Indians would attract the Anglo Asians but the BCCI won't let them play. What is needed are England players and a season long league won't help here. There is a real danger that we over estimate the public's appetite for T20. Games can be very similar and blur into one. It probably needs to be tested but I doubt T20 has the legs to support a season long competition.

Posted by jmcilhinney on (July 7, 2012, 19:15 GMT)

I wonder whether there has been any meaningful survey of the paying public to see what they want as far as scheduling goes. The players seem to like the idea of a concentrated mid-season tournament with one of the arguments being that that makes it easier to attract big-name overseas players. Why do they want those players though? Do they think that they will be the drawcards to bring in more fans and therefore more income? I've heard many English fans say that overseas players are not a big drawcard for them. There's no doubt that spreading the T20 competition over a longer period would make it more financially viable for fans to see more games. It's not like India where there are just so many people that they can fill stadia for every game even if noone sees more than one game in a season. I think that it's quite possible that everyone is making assumptions about what the fans want without ever actually asking them.

Posted by 2.14istherunrate on (July 7, 2012, 13:44 GMT)

This idea seems eminently sensible. personally I find modern seasons have a strange shape with Championship and CB 40 being like bookends to the season and at the height of summer a load of short games be9ing spread out over far too long a period. i t is ridiculous to have all these gaps in fixtures. If you do not like the format, actually the season resembles something more like a flopped souffle than a meaningful summer banquet. I preferred the old style seasons.

Posted by RonGriffiths on (July 7, 2012, 11:36 GMT)

I can understand the call for a T20 spread over the season. I am sure the paying public would support the idea but the clubs need to look at the pro/cons of the same.

The advantages will be that a spread of fixtures may bring in more paying supporters although what day it is played will be vitally important to club finances. There has to be a balance between general public and corporate. The corporate do spend but they tend not to support weekend fixtures. the general public would prefer friday night/weekend fixtures

The disadvantage will be that high profile overseas players will not be readily available so it may be of limited interest to the paying public. Players having to switch from county cricket 4 day game to T20 mode may reduce their effectiveness. Will the interest still be so intense for T20 if it is spread over a season?

For me, I would prefer the present set up of a short T20 campaign.

Posted by Harvey on (July 7, 2012, 10:50 GMT)

It's rare indeed that you'll find me agreeing with a Surrey administrator, but he's spot-on when it comes to this issue. The truth of the matter is that in England, freelance ringers add little if anything to attendances, which means that far from bringing in more income to English domestic cricket, they end up being a drain on resources. Then when a county qualifies for the Champions League, they go swanning off to their IPL franchise, usually leaving the county weakened to the extent that they are no longer our strongest T20 team, and unlikely to get anywhere in the competition. I've nothing against overseas players, but if they're going to come, let them come for the season and hopefully be available for other formats as well. Spreading out T20 will get new people into the habit of attending cricket and hopefully encourage them to watch other formats as well, rather than just trying to appeal to football fans, as all too often seems to be the case now.

Posted by py0alb on (July 7, 2012, 9:31 GMT)

I've been saying the exact same thing for a year or so now. Glad to see the professionals are starting to see sense. Keep it simple - one game a week fits almost perfectly into 3 months.

Posted by Nutcutlet on (July 7, 2012, 6:23 GMT)

Well, of course Gould is spot on. The argument that's trotted out to counter the sensible spreading out of the T20 fixtures is the difficulty counties would have in hiring so-called 'International stars' for protracted periods - as if crowds would stay away in large numbers if they weren't playing. That argument doesn't persuade me. If counties have some of these apparent draw-cards for the season, then they are also there in the T20 line-ups; there is some integrity in that. Otherwise, let the crowds see the home-grown crop that have one loyalty, not five! Thousands would still roll in when the weather (prob the most signif factor) allows. What sticks in the craw is the late influx of the hired guns, here for a few weeks & then off - fat fee banked - often for a set of very indifferent performances (the smiling & affable Dirk Nannes probably the best example this year). And, of course, the budgeting for evenings at the cricket becomes a more feasible, saner exercise for most families.

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David Hopps David Hopps joined ESPNcricinfo as UK editor early in 2012. For the previous 20 years he was a senior cricket writer for the Guardian and covered England extensively during that time in all Test-playing nations. He also covered four Olympic Games and has written several cricket books, including collections of cricket quotations. He has been an avid amateur cricketer since he was 12, and so knows the pain of repeated failure only too well. The pile of untouched novels he plans to read, but rarely gets around to, is now almost touching the ceiling. He divides his time between the ESPNcricinfo office in Hammersmith and his beloved Yorkshire.
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